Tag Archives: D&D

I really miss living history

8 Jan

I first started doing living history when I was 12 years old. I always had the next even marked on my calendar, and was constantly thinking of new things to build for the events. I loved going to our weekly meetings, getting together at friend’s houses and doing crafts nights, and sword practice on Sundays. I had somewhere I felt I belonged.

Well the group I was so fond of growing up fell apart, and some of my treasured bridges burned. I joined a new group that I was ok, but I hadn’t grown up with them. Plus they were mainly based 4 hours away, so I couldn’t go see them regularly. What really put a kink in my hobby was college. I suddenly had almost no time to work on medieval things, let alone the space and money to do so. My re-enacting fell to one event a year, and I lost myself.

I didn’t have sword practice regularly, and so I started to forget. I had my suit of armor, but it stood solemnly collecting dust in my bedroom. I no longer spent evenings in the living room, with a mug of hot chocolate, a fire roaring in the hearth, and my favorite medieval movies on while I sat there and sewed together whatever item I was working on for the upcoming event. That was my childhood, and now it’s really depressing.

I feel like over the years of not really doing anything, I lost a burning passion, a passion that set me apart from other people. I had something I loved and could talk for hours about, but now that’s gone. My girlfriend has a passion like that for gaming, and while I listen intently to her lectures on the subject, and even participate in games with her, that is and always will be her passion, not mine.

I want my passion back. This all peaked my senior year in college. Right before I am to graduate I come to startling realization that I no longer have a passion for anything. I had always wanted to be an archaeologist working in castles. I wanted to find things that re-enactors would then research when trying to create things for their camp. I spent years preparing to pursue that career, worked in internships, field schools, weekends, even traveled to England for a month, only to decide that I had lost my love for it.

Now I’m afraid of becoming just another cog. Another bland slice of bread. Nothing special about me when I put on my dress shirt and tie to go into work.  I really feel I’ve lost something unique and defining about myself. I want it back.

I hope that now I’m going to graduate and get a job, I’ll have some more time, and money for that matter, to pursue my hobby. I want to become more involved in my living history group, perhaps join others as well. I want to go to events more, get more connected. I want to find another western martial arts group to train with, get back in shape. I want the excitement from my childhood back.

Hit points

17 Aug

Hitpoints have always been a curious invention by gaming. I guess the frailty of our bodies is not very fun, and so to make gaming fun, we need to invent hitpoints.

Can you imagine if games were like real life in terms of total damage a body can sustain? You wouldn’t get three feet in a shooter game. The first bullet you took would shatter and shred your internal organs, leading you to bleed out all over the floor while going into shock. Not exactly stuff that would make a game like Gears of War a hit.

Huge battles in RTS games would be over in a few seconds. All your expensive units would die after being hit once, it would suck, but then so does war in real life.

One game that I must point out that does this differently is the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. In the game you are not a human tank. Bullets will deplete your health much faster, and even after you’ve been hit you will bleed, depleting your health further. While the damage is “more” realistic, it isn’t perfect. A bullet to the stomach would pretty much put you out of action. Still, the game is commendable for going the extra mile.

(Here is a really good and funny video review of it by Zero Punctuation)

What I find really interesting in games is how some weapons do more damage than others. Sure, if you want to talk physics a bullet has more joules behind it than an arrow, but both will still kill you. The total energy is different, but the end result is the same.

Perhaps the idea that some weapons are “superior” to others in games stems from the existence of hitpoints instead of the fact that weapons evolved for efficiency reasons and not because newer ones “killed you more”.


Weapon effectiveness

16 Aug

So today I was playing around with Empire Earth II. I was having a great time and then a swarm of enemy pikemen surrounded one of my tanks and killed it. I was like “Hey…wait a second….” Let me see, how I can best put this? Oh, I know!

tank pwns

I know how the game calculates damage. X unit has Y hitpoints and does Z damage. If enough of unit A gangs up on unit B, then eventually the damage done by unit A is going to deplete unit B’s hitpoints. Simple. Unfortunately, in this case that scenario is totally impossible. A bunch of guys with pikes could never destroy an active tank. Maybe if it was left in a field and they had a few weekends to take the nuts and bolts off, but not if it was manned, moving, and shooting.

Now this is a computer game, and so it’s rather trivial, but it would be nice to make it as realistic as possible. Unfortunately, that would require a lot more code to be written about what the computer should or shouldn’t do when 2 units fight. Production times and costs are already so enormous, this issue will definitely be on the back burner for a long long time.

This is an area where I think table top gaming has an edge over computer gaming. D&D and its many spin offs have AC “armor class”. AC determines if, when attacked, a player takes any damage. The better your armor, the better your AC, and thus the less likely you are to take damage. Now the system is not perfect for every possible weapon/armor combination, but it really helps in trying to make the game more realistic.

I hate 3.5 combat

27 Jun

Last night I joined my girlfriend and her friends in playing as a guest star in their Arcana Evolved campaign. (Ok, so not star, but guest player) Anyways, the game lasted from 3pm to 10pm, with about an hour dinner break. For the most part it was fun, except the last 2-3 hours.

The last 2-3 hours was nothing but combat. There were 6 players versus 12 evil skeleton monsters with 40HP and AC’s of 25. Now, one of the biggest things I like about Swords and Wizardry, or Labyrinth Lord (both retro clones) is how everything is very simple. You just play.

With this Arcana Evolved game there are just so many rules and numbers. It took us 3 hours to fight 12 skeletons. I sat and watched the clock, it took 45 minutes for me to get my turn to go again, and only 30 seconds to find out that I missed every attack because I rolled too low. I then had to wait another half an hour till it got back around to being my turn.

I’m sorry but no. Fuck no. When you have time to get up and watch a TV show or take the dog for a walk without missing your turn in a game, something is wrong. When you are bored to tears watching the other players for 45 minutes, something is wrong. All my character could do was swing at things with his sword, so it took me 2 seconds to say what I was going to do, then roll. Everybody else took forever casting spells, looking at the map, calculating damage, and so on.

Now I know for some people they love the strategy involved with combat. How do I position my character, what attacks am I going to use, etc… But I think it is absurd that in a fantasy game, that by definition asks you to suspend your disbelief, so much emphasis is put on trying to make combat realistic. The player must know every little detail, they must ask a million little questions. No! That is not realistic combat! You know what it realistic combat?!?! “Oh shit! He’s got an axe! What do you do? 1…2…BAM! You hesitated! You’re Dead!” End of story.

The calm before the storm

14 Jun

Trollsmyth‘s new Labyrinth Lord game is approximately 70 hours. ( I spent an hour trying to find a countdown timer that works on wordpress, but to no avail)

Needless to say even without a computer counter, I will be keeping track of the hours. I’m pretty pysched. This will be my first actual campaign with people other than the girlfriend. I got so excited that I not only made one character, but three. (Though I have been playing around with 2 other possibles)

It’s not that I think he’s going to kill off all the players very quickly, it was just that I wanted something to actively do before the game started.

The setting is pretty cool. Check this out: We’re starting out on this sunny and safe vacation island, Dreng Bdan, in the town of Pitsh, the hot get away spot for Russian Mafia playboys. There’s going to be lots of vodka, techno, and women.

Pitsh Rocks!

What could go wrong? ~_^

The first character I’m going to play is Afya, a witch with a waterbuffalo….


I think she’ll be pretty cool to play with. She’s mainly a support character. Not overly focused on combat, but good at brewing up a potion. Yet this bad girl’s got a secret.

The next character is Darastrix, a lizardman. He used to be part of the Lizardfolk army before getting kicked out for being the Lizard equivalent of a furry….(he had an affiar with a human)

(unfortunately I don’t have any crapy home made concept art for him. Yet I imagine it would be something like this:

lizard_manThe last character is perhaps the most inventive.  Meet Vicare! The flying gnome!

pure awesome

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, he may only be 2.5 feet tall, but it’s 2.5 feet of densely packed awesome. This bitch is equipped with 4 trained parrots that pull his small and adventurous body up and into the heavens!

Starting a new campaign

31 May

This June I will be starting a new campaign run by Trollsmyth. It’s my first big campaign and I’m pretty excited. Well, excited and intimidated. I’ll be joined by some other experienced players.

I’m playing a female witch, Afya. Now I’ve been warned about some of the things that go wrong when men play as women, namely awkward lesbian adventures, but that’s not what I’m shooting for. I also don’t want to be “that player”, the one who just makes life difficult for the DM.

My girlfriend has vented to me several times while running one of her games about how one of the players was just horrible. Copying a second player in almost everything she did, and asking really stupid irrelevant questions.

Anyways, here’s Afya’s back story:

Afya was born and raised on the edge of the Second Lizardfolk Empire. Her mother Malika, a once respected witch, taught Afya of the Mother and the ways of witches, but has been suffering a slow mental decline over that past decade. Malika now spends her time tending to the water buffalo on the family farm and collecting herbs. Afya’s father Jal spent a short time in the Lizardfolk army as an archer, but retired after his tour. He now tends to the family water buffalo and Malika. Jal was wounded and disabled in a border raid by a group of human marauders, and as such work has become more difficult. Afya has one brother, Zahid, who instead of helping on the family farm, left for one of the human cities to seek his fortune, but has not been heard from for some time.

With no relief from the Lizardfolk Empire and a disable father, Afya’s family is having trouble making ends meet. Afya had to make the difficult choice to leave the farm in search of work, her brother, and hopefully something to aid her mother. The family scrounged what they could and even let Afya take a water buffalo, Hercule.


Yes, a waterbuffalo. My lovely girlfriend never told me that we were going to be starting on an Island the size of Corsica. Trollsmyth said he never had a player start out with a waterbuffalo before. I figured I have a lot of hard to carry stuff, and a waterbuffalo could help pull objects out of our way.

For fun I made some really terrible concept art of Afya and Hercule. I found a Chador or the clothing list and decided to run with it. Afya also means “shadows” in Arabic, so I thought it worked nicely.

Afya and Hercule

I don’t know my own strength….or that of a bat.

21 May

So I just finished up a gaming session with my DM girlfriend. We’re about 200 miles apart for the summer (which right now is probably a good thing for my sake) and so we played over a mix of text and g-talk voice.

I spent an hour scanning every room of my dungeon into easily send-able .bmp pictures, thinking she would continue to explore around. But no, she wanted to get a shinny glowy thing she found earlier in another room, guarded by a giant bat.

So off she ventured with her main character, the very promising Biffy Dunwhite, esq. and her masterful sidekick Kai Shiradi.

You see, Biffy had heard that there was a giant bat in the dungeon, and so late one night while she couldn’t sleep, she bought a “Bat’s day-fucker-up” device off of QVC, consisting of a bulls-eye lantern and a mirror.

qualityArmed with this great high quality tool he descended into the dungeon with Kai. After coming to the room with the bat, they spring in upon it, startling it. Kai swings at the bat and hits it with a glancing blow, but the bat crushes the fierce warrior down to one hit point before Biffy can aim the light in the bat’s face, sending it stumbling backward. Enraged, with Kai bleeding her guts out all over the floor, the bat charges at the hapless Biffy, and in one swoop kills her. Kai drags herself up and staggers towards the bat, now standing over Biffy’s lifeless body, between her and the door, she swings, but given her weaken state misses horribly. They bat turns around and finishes her.

And thus ended about 10 minutes of game play after about 3 hours of preparation. (The player’s fault) This is my first dungeon, and I was really hoping not to kill off my girlfriend’s characters, but apparently I didn’t know how strong of a monster the giant bat was. It has 8 hit dice, a challenge level of 9, and 1,100 xp…..my bad……. The rest of the monsters are just goblins of one variety or another, and I thought a giant bat would be cool. Little did this new DM know how un-cool it would be for Biffy.

Death of a hero....

Sexism in games

17 May

I’m very aware of gender roles and stereotypes, and when I find one it irritates me. I think this is a problem that plagues the video game industry a lot more than it does role playing. There are very few main female characters in video games, and slightly more secondary female characters. A lot of the games with secondary female characters suffer from “white male syndrome” as my girlfriend puts it. AKA, the other female/minority characters need you, the white male to come and save them in some capacity. (This irritates the hell out of me too)

When a game does have a main female character, the majority of the time she is simply a sex object. Here are a few examples:

Lara CroftXbladesHeavenly Sword

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll admit, being a white male, I enjoy these characters aesthetically, but come on, can’t we have a few normal female main characters? What about Faith from Mirror’s Edge?

mirrors edge

See, now that’s better. It’s like my girlfriend if I skip on following the directions when making her Mac & Cheese. That’s a character I can relate to! (The guard that is ~_^)

Admittedly, I’ve never played Mirror’s edge, so I don’t know what Faith is like as a character, but aesthetically she’s nice. The other problem a lot of video games have is that the women in them are either incompetent, or cold hostile bitches.

Alyx Vance from Half-life is an exception.

She’s competent, able to handle her self, intelligent, and emotionally mature. I wish more female characters were like her. Unfortunately, she’s a secondary character to Gordon Freeman, a white male (albeit, one of my favorite characters)

So what brought all this on? Well currently I’m having a lot of fun playing “Overlord”. You play as this huge well…..overlord:


Obviously a white male. The problem is, one of the missions was for me to find a “mistress” for the tower. (Come to think of it, that sounds dirty) Anyways, I had to rescue this one sorceress woman, Rose.

RoseOk, obviously she is supposed to be a sex symbol, but what REALLY got to me was when I “rescued” her and brought her back to my destroyed tower, she said that she would clean up a bit and put a kettle on. No! You take that huge fucking axe (the overlord has a huge axe btw) and you go out and kick ass! Tell him to fucking go to the grocery store and cook dinner for once!

I know I might sound crazy, but shit like this drives me mad! A woman should damn well be able to go out and lead a horde of minions pillaging through the country side while her husband stays home and cooks! Gah!

D&D Armor and Weapon Weights

7 May

Like I said in my earlier post on my ship dungeon, I’m new to this whole table-top gaming thing, so forgive any ignorance. (My DM girlfriend loves lecturing me about roleplaying at the drop of a hat  ~_^)

When I first flipped through her game books well over a year ago, one of the things that drove me crazy was the armor and weapons section. Having done medieval living history for almost a decade, studied Western martial arts for 5 years in ARMA, and owning a full suit of armor (the real stuff, not bullshit leather, plastic, or stainless steel) I think I can pretty well say that I know weapon and armor weights, and what you can do with both.

For example, the buckler is a small shield that can be used defensively and offensively. It has a small hand grip and is in no way “strapped” to your arm.

The hypertext 3E SRD describes a buckler as: This small metal shield is worn strapped to your forearm.” Another thing that drove me crazy was the idea of a “locked gauntlet.” Again, the SRD describes this as: “This armored gauntlet has small chains and braces that allow the wearer to attach a weapon to the gauntlet so that it cannot be dropped easily. It provides a +10 bonus on any roll made to keep from being disarmed in combat.”

Small chains? You know why real knights never wore horns on their armor? Because horns, just like chains, give the enemy something perfect to grab at and hook you on to let them pull you down. That’s why real armor is always smooth and flowing, so there is nothing that can be caught. Chains defeats the whole point. But that’s not my biggest objection. My biggest problem with this idea is that very often in real combat you want to be able to drop your weapon.

Look at this video, at around 1:30 they start to do some techniques that are part of what is called “half-swording.” Many times, when your opponent starts to “wind” his blade the only thing you can do if you can’t out wind him is to drop your blade and grapple him.

Lastly, the other thing that drove me up the wall was the weights. Let me start with shield weights.  Again, the buckler, the 3E SRD says a buckler weighs 5lbs. I’m holding mine in my hand right now and it only weighs about a pound. Here’s a picture of me with my buckler:

mewithbucklerBut perhaps the most ridiculous shield weight has to be that of a tower shield. 3E SRD says it is 45lbs. Now something like that would unpractical to carry into battle. Even these huge judicial shields weren’t that heavy, the guys can still swing them around easily.

I also know Roman re-enactors and their tower Shields aren’t that heavy either, and they have to sometimes form a testudo:


Now on to armor:

I must say, the 3E SRD does a good job when it comes to armor weights. They have padded armor at 10lbs, which is accurate.  A padded jack like this one:

is pretty darn heavy for just a bunch of cloth. Mine has 25 layer of linen and weighs about that much dry. I don’t ever want to see how heavy it is if wet.

3E SRD has full plate at 50lbs,  Swords and Wizardry core rules has it at 70, 4E player’s handbook has it also at 50. I must say that I am surprised how close to accurate they came.  The true weights are somewhere between 60lbs and 80lbs. It depends on the time period really. Here, look at this picture:

steve and me

My friend is the guy on the left, I’m the guy on the right. My suit of armor is 1370’s ish, his is 1470’s ish. His weighs about 60lbs, mine weighs about 75lbs. The difference is the chainmaile. As you can see, I have a LOT more maile than him. As the armor got better and stronger, the knights started to ditch the maile, hence why his is lighter.


This is the part of roleplaying that I think is most egregious and epitomised by this clip from the 13th Warrior:

Lets take my favorite weapon, the longsword:

This particular sword happens to be called “The Agincourt“, made by Albion Swords (one of the finest places to buy a real sword, period) and weighs 3lbs 7oz. Swords and Wizardry has the longsword at 10lbs! 4E is closer with a weight of 4lbs, but then gives a greatsword a weight of 8lbs!

Ask any re-enactors in Das TeufelsAlpdrücken Fähnlein how heavy their two-handers are, and they’ll tell you not more than 4-5lbs.

All these horrible weights make me think D&D is trying to tell you all swords handle like this:

D&D Glaive weight: 10lbs, real weight, 3-4lbs, D&D Halberd weight 12lbs, real weight 5lbs. D&D dagger weight 1lbs, real weight .7 (Ok, so now I’m getting picky :-p)

My DM girlfriend tries to tell me that these weights are an attempt to signify weight + volume, or how difficult it is to carry something. I don’t know if I buy that. Maybe. But it then leaves people with this horrible idea that the real weapons weigh that much, which as a re-enactor, is my duty to dispel.

Ship Dungeon

1 May

So lately I’ve taken the plunge into role-playing. I’ve role-played in only three very short games before and never DMed. I’m mainly a computer gamer (if I can be called that, I only play when I have the time, which is rarely), yet with a girlfriend who has been a life long DM, I guess it was only a matter of time.

While I’m still clueless on the mechanics of playing (she’s helping me out with that) I have been really into trying to come up with cool settings. The first dungeon I made (which she is currently playing through) was set in a Jules Verne “Journey to the Center of the Earth” style Aztec village with a band of stranded un-dead conquistadors.

It’s only a page big, but has turned out to be mapping hell for her. For instance, I’m sure I gave her a major headache when I tried to describe this  diamond shaped room that had two more smaller diamond shaped rooms in it. Here is the lower half of the map (which she has explored):

Mapping hell

She also recently told me of some contest (I forget the name of it) where I have to create a dungeon that fits on one page. I wanted to do something other than the mundane generic medieval dungeon, so got the idea to use a shipwreck. It’s an enclosed space, that can have rooms, and dangers, and treasures. Then for setting, I tried to blend two things together, Egypt and Napoleonic France. So in short, it’s a sunken French ship coming back from French Occupied Egypt with something mysterious aboard!

Here is the map with just the ship’s outline filled out:


For the ship layout, I modified the design of a (Russian?) brig:


It was the only free ship layout I could find at the time, and it seemed to work nicely. For scaling, I decided to make each square 1 meter, instead of the normal 5 feet. I measured the brig schematics and the ship is roughly 40 meters long. I was able to fit four decks onto the piece of page.

I’m planning on having one deck be the top deck with the captain’s quarters, and then the lower decks will be anything from crew’s quarters, to kitchen, to gun deck, to cargo hold. Perhaps I’ll throw in a dash of Event Horizon. ~_^

As for creating individual rooms, I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do. I was thinking that a sunken ship has a lot of debris, and that things move around inside of the ship as it sinks. This could then create barriers that would form make-shift corridors.

I think it’ll be a lot of fun, and hopefully I can come up with some neat things to put in there.